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(en) US, black rose fed: DEPORTING US CITIZENS: TRUMP'S NEW FASCISTIC USE OF LAW By Mark Bray, Truth Out
Tue, 4 Sep 2018 09:53:51 +0300
This week's chilling revelation that the Trump administration has jailed and initiated
deportation proceedings against United States citizens who possess official US birth
certificates exposes the absurdity of the far-right myth promoted by Trump and his
supporters that xenophobic policies are merely about legality rather than racism. ---- The
State Department is calling into question the legal status of Latinx citizens along the
southern border based on the claim that "there has been a significant incidence of
citizenship fraud" in the region, though there is evidence of no more than a handful of
cases. In 2009, the government seemed to have settled the matter in court with the ACLU
before Trump's State Department recently resurrected this xenophobic conspiracy theory. As
a result, Latinx citizens residing near the southern border have been denied passports,
prevented from re-entering the country without warning, detained in immigration camps and
scheduled for deportation proceedings.
For years right-wing pundits have harped upon the importance of coming to the United
States legally - "doing it the right way." But if they mean what they say, then how can
they support the denial of citizenship to documented Latinxs who were born in the US? If
the hackneyed reactionary refrain that anti-immigrant policies are about legality rather
than racism is true, then why is the Trump administration planning to make it harder for
legal immigrants to obtain green cards and citizenship?
There are two basic sets of answers to these questions that are not mutually exclusive:
first, because it is about race, because Trump and many of his advisers are racist and
because the history of immigration enforcement in the United States is a story of race.
Second, because Trump and his administration have no real allegiance to the law and have
"trampled on all manner of constitutional principles," as CNN legal analyst Joan Biskupic
and countless critics have pointed out. After all, Trump bemoaned the "archaic system" of
government in the United States as "a really bad thing for the country" because it limited
his personal authority to "get things done."
To understand this week's revelations fully, it is necessary to integrate both answers
without dismissing the Trumpian appeal to "law and order" as completely insincere or
nothing more than window-dressing for racism. To fully understand the fundamental
relationship between identity and law at the heart of Trumpism, fascism and far-right
politics more broadly, it's important to examine the fascist conception of law, which
grows out of a paradoxical struggle of law and order against law and order.
The Origins of the Fascist Conception of Law
The reason early 20th century fascists attacked liberal parliamentary government was
because supposedly "effeminate" bourgeois politicians allegedly enabled Jews, communists,
Freemasons, homosexuals and others to weaken the nation and/or race amidst the
all-important Social Darwinian struggle for supremacy. The true, organic identity of the
collective, according to these fascists, was suppressed by "artificial" laws enacted by
paper-pushers that they claimed failed to protect property from the insurgent left and
failed to protect German women from "lecherous" Jews.
In recent decades, self-avowed fascists and far-right groups in Europe and elsewhere have
reinvented this critique of liberal law and order in a struggle against a reconfigured
constellation of threats: immigration and so-called "refugee crises," "globalism,"
multiculturalism, Islam, shifting norms of gender and sexuality, and others. The far right
claims that current laws in the US, Germany, France and elsewhere leave the true organic
community of the (racialized) nation too helpless to defend itself from disintegration.
Nowhere is this articulated more clearly than in the white supremacist fear of an
imaginary "white genocide."
Since the true source of collective authority for fascists is understood as emanating from
the essence of the nation or race as articulated by the charismatic leader, no
infringement of "artificial" law is off-limits in the struggle to ensure group survival.
To that end, Italian Blackshirts, German Brownshirts, and other fascist forces launched
campaigns of street violence to "cleanse" their societies of "undesirables" and restore
"order." Later, Hitler purged his Stormtroopers in order to assuage middle-class anxieties
about "chaos." He imposed "order" upon a force allegedly intended to "restore order" - the
fascist snake bites its tail.
When these movements legally gained power, they circumvented established law by creating
parallel structures of governance including fascist courts, fascist police forces like the
Gestapo and fascist prisons like the Nazi concentration camps. Fascists established this
"prerogative state" without entirely dismantling the "normative state" that they
inherited. Hitler never took the time to formally abolish the Weimar Constitution of 1919.
Though fascists sought to drain modern law of its fundamental content and deprive it of
its previous role in integrating individuals into the collective, fascist "prerogative"
power thrived by veiling itself in the sanctifying guise of law. Changes in working
conditions were legitimated by laws like the 1927 Italian Charter of Labor or the 1934
German National Labor Law. Anti-Semitism was legalized by the Nuremburg Laws and the
Italian Racial Laws.
Certainly, Nazis and fascists recognized the propagandistic value of framing their
policies as laws, but more fundamentally, the fascist conception of law amounted to a
legitimation of the imagined "collective will" of the chosen group as expressed by Il Duce
or der Führer. Historically, fascists have attempted to present themselves as the bulwark
of a true "law and order" against the inept, corrupt status quo that favors the interests
of outsiders over and against those of the fundamental community.
Trump and the Fascist Conception of Law
The message is clear: A defense of "law and order" requires challenging the liberal
conception of law when it does not sufficiently protect the order that is to be restored:
the white, Christian, conservative, hetero-patriarchal America that is to be made "great
again." That imaginary America is the law and the order. Whether it is currently legal or
constitutional to deprive Latinxs of their citizenship or Muslims of their right to
immigrate is beside the point.
Of course, it is obvious that the liberal notions of legal neutrality or equal justice are
fictions. Laws have always served (and will always serve) the interest of those who write
them. This has been true in the US since laws were used to justify the genocide of the
Indigenous population, legitimize slavery and Jim Crow, and exclude people from around the
world from immigrating, even including people from southern and eastern Europe who were
not yet considered "white." Trumpism is merely the latest wrinkle on this longer history
of white supremacy in the US, and fascism, as Martiniquais writer Aimé Cesaire noted, was
a kind of imperialism brought home to the European continent. Yet, the paradox of the
fascist conception of law provides a particularly clear model for understanding how white
supremacists, fascists and far-right figures orient themselves to the status quo.
The argument being made here is neither that Trump is a textbook fascist nor that his
administration necessarily represents a step toward an eventual 21st century fascism. Yet,
current and former White House officials - like Steve Bannon, who is inspired by Italian
fascist Julius Evola, Stephen Miller, who was mentored by white nationalist Richard
Spencer, and Sebastian Gorka, who swore lifelong allegiance to a Hungarian Nazi group -
designed racist policies like the Muslim Ban, migrant family separation and others that
have helped the Trump administration venture in a markedly fascistic direction. If left
unchecked, these policies have the potential to snowball. But the question of where a
flirtation with authoritarianism will lead is only part of the picture. The fact that
migrant children have been abused and neglected in concentration camps, that Latinxs are
having their citizenship stripped away, that Muslims are being profiled, that Black and
Indigenous people are being gunned down by the police, that Indigenous protesters are
facing brutal suppression and that an unprecedented number of people are being
incarcerated every year are enough reason to fight back now.
The most long-lasting historical ramification of this reactionary era may be less the
policies of the Trump administration than the growing militancy of a significant percent
of the population who explicitly or implicitly support any law or abrogation of law that
aims to maintain and enhance the white supremacist America that gives them a sense of
identity and security.
The answer to this threat is not to unquestioningly support the current order of laws
against far-right forces that seek to destroy it. The propagandistic value of calling
dictatorial edicts "laws" grew out of just such a fetishization of the legal. Instead, let
us counterpose their anti-Latinx xenophobia with anti-racism and internationalism. Some
racist policies are illegal and can be fought in the courts. Most are actually legal but
no less deserving of resistance, legal or otherwise.
This article was originally published on TruthOut.
Mark Bray is a historian of human rights, terrorism and politics in modern Europe. He is a
member of Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation and the author of Antifa: The
Anti-Fascist Handbook, Translating Anarchy: The Anarchism of Occupy Wall Street, and
co-editor of Anarchist Education and the Modern School: A Francisco Ferrer Reader. He is
currently a lecturer at Dartmouth College.
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